Originally posted August 2007
Okay, here's the deal...
I've been getting a lot of PM's and emails from younger players, wanting advice about getting started in Airsoft. I'm going to try and answer those questions here in a clear and concise manner.
I am sure some other players may disagree with me. That's fine. This is what Erik has to say. You can listen to Erik or not, that's up to you. But if you want my help, you have to take my advice.
One thing I want to make clear is that other people will tell you what's best for you. Anyone who says they can tell you that is a liar. Only you can determine what's best for you. One thing Erik never does is lie to you.
What should I do first?
More important in Airsoft than anything else is money - you need money to get guns & gear. You will need money to play. So if you don't have a job, you best get one.
On that note, you will need a way to get to games. All the gear in the world won't do you any good unless you arrive at the field. Like the money issue, you have to solve this problem yourself.
Once I have a job, now what?
Now you need to get equipped. Here's what you need at a minimum: A gun, batteries, magazines, ammo, a charger, and safety equipment.
You need all of these items before you step onto the field. The gun is useless without magazines, batteries, and ammo. Batteries are worthless without a charger.
Safety Equipment is composed of gloves, goggles, hydration, and a gun case.
Can I use these cheap goggles I saw on eBay?
Get yourself a good-quality set of paintball goggles. You can buy these at Wal-Mart or other stores that sell paintball gear. A lot of these sets come with a detachable mask. Keep the mask though - you will need it for close-engagement games.
A lot of people will sell you a lot of stuff on eBay. But you are best off to buy a proven product. Cheap goggles won't be allowed at any MAA game, and if you use them elsewhere you're going to risk losing an eye.
Goggles MUST be rated ANSI Z.87.1 standard. This will be written in the packaging, and is usually also somwhere on the goggle. If they don't have this rating, don't buy them!
See the Eyewear thread in Safety & Training for more info.
What about "full-face" protection, which is required for some games? Is a balaclava okay for that?
Don't overestimate the protection a balaclava gives you. While it might prevent a BB from entering your mouth (or ear canal) a thin layer of fabric is unlikely to prevent you from getting a chipped tooth. Only rigid full-face protection or a mouthguard will do that.
"Full-face" requirements at MAA games means a full plastic paintball mask. Nothing else will do. If you are worried about fogging, get a mask with a thermal lens.
Okay, but gloves are a luxury I can't afford.
Paintball gloves cost less than $10. You can afford that. Gloves protect you from environmental hazards on the field, and from getting a broken finger. Stock guns can break finger bones at close range.
I can guarantee if you get shot in the finger, you'll wish you had spent the $10.
What do I need a gun case for?
The gun case protects both your gun and you. You don't want to carry around a $200 gun in a cardboard box, do you?
In order to legally transport your Airsoft gun in Minnesota, you need to have a case. Minnesota statutes require it. If you are transporting an uncased gun, you face getting arrested, which means fines and jail. Not to mention your Airsoft gun will get confiscated and destroyed.
A decent gun case can be had for less than $20.
Okay, but I don't want to spend money on hydration. I don't drink a lot of water anyway. I'll just bring a bottle.
Airsoft is an active sport. Even in cold weather, you are going to need to hydrate. Dehydration injuries are more likely to happen during an Airsoft game than any other type of injury.
Real-life soldiers carry as much water as they can into the field. Learn from their experience! You shouldn't set foot on the field without at least 1 qt of water. In hot weather, you should drink 1 qt or more per hour.
What kind of gun should I get?
Don't waste your money on a cheap peice of junk. And don't believe everything you hear about cheap guns - cheap is cheap! A good rule of thumb is if you can buy it at a big-box sporting good store (Dicks, Ganger, etc) it's a worthless piece of crap.
I used to say, "You wanna play Airsoft, you will need a Marui AEG" but now I have more faith in some of the newer Chinese clones. Based on my experience, an AEG by Marui, Echo-1 or Jing Gong (Golden Bow) is a good base gun for a new player. When it comes to quality, Marui is hands-down the best.
Keep the gun stock, upgrades can hurt reliability.
But I'm a new player, and I'm not very good. I need the advantage of an upgrade.
No you don't. Upgrades cost money and break your gun. When I teach real steel classes, I tell students to look for 3 things in a gun:
1. Reliability. If it doesn't shoot, it's useless. Upgrades reduce reliability. It's not really an even trade-off at all.
2. Shootability. The gun needs to fit your body type and shooting style. P90's and AK's are too short for some; G3's and M16's are too long for some. You need something that works for you.
3. Carryability. A full-metal G3sg-1 with a RIS and accessories looks cool, but it doesn't get lighter as the day goes on. You need to be agile and move on the field. A heavy gun will slow you down.
Bottom line: check out other people's guns and see what works well for you.
When asking to look at someone elses' gun, be polite. Ask first, and understand if they say no - these things cost a lot of money. When you are looking at someone else's gun, don't shoot it without asking first. And don't commit a safety violation with someone elses' gun. That's about the worst.
Okay, I got a gun. But I still don't have a lot of cash. Can't I get by on one hicap?
Maybe for a short while - but not if you seriously want to play. You should have at least 3 hicaps. for an adequate load-out. What do you do if your one hicap jams up? Or you lose it on the field?
Is it reasonable for you to expect your other team-mates to wait for you while you refill your hicap? Do you think the enemy force will wait for you to refill your hicap?
Also, consider that most large scenario games require standard/midcap magazines. I'd recommend having no less than five of these - and I'd double that if I was going to a large op.
Okay, but one battery is okay right?
Batteries are funny things. Sometimes they don't charge properly. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they are lost, and sometimes the wires get torn out. What are you going to do then?
You should always have a charged spare battery on the field, even if you have a Large battery.
And on that subject - charge your battery at least 24 hours before the game. "quick charging" your battery at the field is unreliable and will reduce the life of your battery.
Your team-mates are counting on you to back them up. Don't betray that trust. Honor it.
What about slings?
There are a number of sling variations, some of which are practical for Airsoft, some of which are not.
The thing I see the most n00bs using is the "tactical 3-point" sling. To each his own, but unless you are using your gun in a CQB environment and plan on doing a lot of AEG to pistol transitions, it's not very practical.
There are some shooting positions which utilize a sling, but they are designed for precision slow-fire marksmanship with real-steel guns, and do very little for Airsoft.
Carrying your gun is easier with a sling, but not in a "ready" position. Once exception to this is the "single point" sling which attaches to your LBE/Vest and the butt of the gun. The gun hangs ready and can be shouldered in seconds. If you can't afford a sling, try a D-ring clipped to your gear with a short loop of cord around the buttstock.
You should be able to buy a traditional sling from wherever you get your gun..."3 point" and "single point" slings are available from most tactical gear makers.
Okay, now I have everything.
Now you need to do the single most important thing of all. Play the game.
Play whenever you can. And when you play, put your heart into it.
Use tactics. If you don't know tactics, learn them - look for a player wearing a BATC badge, and they will show you what to do.
Don't be so afraid of getting hit you get pinned down and taken out. Use cover. Keep moving. Take the fight to the enemy. Don't let them take it to you.
A lot of people might think I got Command at Art of War because of my background. That's not the case.
When I was offered AoW Command I'd only been playing Airsoft for a few months. I was offered that command because I was motivated, dedicated and I played Airsoft with all my heart and soul. I still play that way, and I do it for the love of the game. I don't care if I win or lose. In fact, some of my best memories were "lost" games.
Play for the love of the game. Play Airsoft. That's the true measure of an Airsoft player - not what is said on these boards.
Some of the people on these boards have over 300 posts and have never played. What does that make them? Not Airsoft players.
Which brings me to something else - use the board for its intended purpose. Ask questions (do a search first - you will probably find your answer there). Look for games to play and training opportunities. Buy and sell gear. Seek advice.
Don't clutter up the board with stupid "look at me" posts. Don't answer questions you don't know the answer to.
Don't pretend to be something you are not. Because if you are for real, you will meet everyone on the board in person, eventually.
If you want to be an Airsoft player, come talk to me. Before you ask though, do us both a favor and read what's here on the boards (check out the "search function" and these FAQs). I'm here to help.
If you are new to the boards make sure you read this forum before posting.
Moderator: THE ARCHANGEL
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